Streets of Fire is a forgotten proto-cyberpunk classic you must see


The neo-noir rock musical Streets of Fire could be the most important cyberpunk movie to be overlooked by fans of the genre. The self-proclaimed “rock & roll fable” with Michael Paré and Diane Lane was a great swing by Walter Hill (Extraterrestrial) and screenwriter Larry Gross’ following the massive success of their previous collaboration: the 1982 action comedy Buddy 48 hours., with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. With the movie recently added to Netflix, Streets of Fire can finally be recognized by the American public as a source of inspiration for more popular iterations of its visuals.

The neo-noir musical follows the story of Ellen Aim (Lane), a rock ‘n roll singer who, after being kidnapped on stage by an infamous biker (Willem Dafoe) and his gang of thugs is saved by her ex-boyfriend, the dashing wandering mercenary Tom Cody (Paré). The film gives the impression Fat by means of Escape from New York; an explosive, kitschy action drama filled with over-the-top brawls, a memorable neon-lit setting filmed on location between Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive and downtown Los Angeles, and a soundtrack filled with tracks written by Jim Steinman, Jimmy Iovine and Stevie Nicks. The questionable peak of the film is the scene where Tom, having infiltrated the biker hideout in an attempt to save Ellen, begins shooting the gas tanks of the gang’s motorcycles as a distraction before hastily escaping with Ellen in tow.

But Streets of Fire was a box office bomb when it was released in 1984, grossing just $ 8 million in North America with a budget of over $ 14.5 million, explosive action sequences, score and performances Memories of Lane, Dafoe and Rick Moranis as Ellen -slash-boyfriend’s dweebish manager Billy Fish made it a cult. The film also has a somewhat low-key, but no less important, legacy as a visual and spiritual touchstone in the then nascent speculative subgenre of cyberpunk.

Photo: Universal images

When we look back on the early origins of cyberpunk, most people refer to the same basic texts: William Gibson’s 1984 novel. Neuromancer, Bruce Sterling Lampshade anthology and the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade runner. Despite being the visual ur-text of almost every great cyberpunk movie released in its own way, Scott’s film is only retroactively recognized as itself. The term “cyberpunk” was originally coined by Bruce Bethke’s novel of the same name, released just a year before the premiere of Blade Runner. It would only be after the publication of Neuromancer and Lampshade that the term would later be adopted as the name of the subgenus itself.

Cyberpunk as we know it today was still in its infancy when Streets of Fire rolled. In the same way Blade runner, movies like the years 1981 Escape from New York, 1982 Exploded city, and 1982 Tron all have helped to establish the visual language of the genre. Streets of Fire emerged from this crop of defining films; an anachronistic rock and roll action romance set in ‘another time, another place’, inspired by Frances Ford Coppola Growling fish and Adrien Lynne Lightning dance.

“[W]e had in mind a phrase inspired by George Lucas: “in a galaxy a long time ago”, a futuristic past, “said Gross in an interview with Slash Film. “It was in our heads… there is the past and there is the future, in a way. So the big decisions of the creative world were the music and then the other thing was, the other guru, the “deity”, behind Streets of Fire was John Hughes.

Hughes’ teen dramas also inspired Hill and Gross, but they ended up with a high school musical in a neon-lit city where it’s almost always dark and no one is over 30. Streets of FireWhile s anachronisms may have made it difficult to sell in the United States, the film would nonetheless achieve significant success when it was subsequently released in Japan. And that’s where Streets of FireThe muted legacy begins.

The story, characters and music of Hill and Gross’s film will influence two quintessential works of cyberpunk anime: the four-part OVA anime (original video animation) Megazone 23 and OVA animates in eight parts Chewing gum crisis. If the premise of the premiere of a young biker taking on infamous street gangs while discovering the true radical nature of his world and the upbeat pop rock score of composer Shiro Sagisu were not already reminiscent of Streets of Fire, the first episode of Megazone 23 literally opens with the protagonist going to see the film himself in theaters.

A poster of Streets of Fire as seen in the first episode of Megazone 23

Photo: AnimEigo

The film’s impact on cyberpunk anime, however, is perhaps best known for inspiring the opening cut of Chewing gum crisis‘first episode, with the scene of the fictional group “Priss and the Replicants”, directed by the protagonist of the series Priscilla Asagiri and an obvious reference to Blade runner, playing in front of a crowded nightclub. The song “There’s a Hurricane Tonight” is a clear tribute to Streets of FireThe opening musical number of “Nowhere fast”, replicating the same shots, lighting and infectious pop rock sound of Diane Lane’s own performance as the film’s female frontman, Elle Aim.

The links with the more famous cyberpunk do not end there: Streets of Fire was also a defining influence on Mike Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game, serving as the main inspiration for the game’s “Rockerboy” class of players, the character of Johnny Silverhand, and even the world-building adaptation of the game. game video game Cyberpunk 2077. “While Blade runnerIs the most obvious choice for the visual style, I think the original material is even more influenced by the little memoryStreets of Fire“said senior quest designer Patrick Mills in an interview with Collider Last year. “Black films have had an important influence on Cyberpunk 2077the story of, more so than the sci-fi genre you might expect. The themes of corruption, moral ambiguity, death, fate and futility in our game draw on the work of the noir genre.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, Streets of Fire has continued to endure as a cult classic; a retro-contemporary black musical filled with memorable visuals and catchy rock ballads. Although it has nothing to do with transhumanism or cutting edge technology, the film still focuses on this most enduring cyberpunk place: a dark and rainy city plagued by territorial disputes between law enforcement agencies. oppressive and lawless bikers and gangsters vying for control and power. It’s a fun movie; one that you should definitely take the time to check out while it’s available.

Streets of Fire is available to stream on Netflix.


About Johanna Gooding

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